Trouble-Shooting Hard Disks

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the November, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


David Tindale sent this in:

Thanks for the newsletters — always informative and a good read.


I have a problem with a project I’m working on, I have been having intermittent problems when trying to render, FCP attempts to render and then throws up a File Error error message saying it can’t complete it’s work.


Any ideas?

Larry replies: My first thought was that David needed to Repair Permissions on his boot disk. However, what his initial message didn’t tell me was that he had a NUMBER of hard drives attached to his system, as his second message indicates. David writes:

I’ve sorted my File Error problem with the kind assistance of Dan from Mac Tech Support. It seems that when you have more than one external HDD attached to your computer, a “clogging” of the Firewire Bus can occur.


The remedy is to turn off and disconnect all non-essential drives, i.e. any drive not necessary for editing.


Shut down your computer, then restart with only the required drives connected. All up it took about 10 minutes to fix a very frustrating problem.


Thanks for your time and suggestions.

Larry continues: This points up a really big issue — the more FireWire drives you add to your system, the slower it goes. My personal limit is five. After that, the hard drives spend so much time talking to each other, that they forget to send data to the computer.

Here are some other hard disk tips you can consider:

* Limit the number of hard drives you have connected to your system.
* If you have FireWire 800 drives, don’t connect them via FireWire 400, it slows them down.
* Connecting a FireWire 400 drive to your computer slows down any attached FireWire 800 drives
* Keep plenty of free space on your hard drive – I recommend 20%

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Adam Connell sent me this:

A friend of mine’s laptop was refusing to boot. It was a 2007 MacBook Pro. They asked if I could check it out, which I did en route home the other night. We were ready to try and reformat the hard disk but she wanted to save a few photos in her home folder.


With the machine refusing to boot, and target disk mode with my MacBook not able to access it, and without an external hard disk to make a quick install of OS X onto to try and access the disk I was worried, as obviously I could not remove her drive and try and plug it into my macpro easily.


But, she happened to have an install disc for 10.6, which due to it’s small footprint, using my machine I was able to install a copy onto my 16 GB flash drive. I was then able to boot her laptop from that and save her files. Now I’ve decided that for salvaging any machine that is refusing to boot from it’s internal drive having a spare, putting a fresh install (it is only 6 GB) for OS X on a flash drive in your pocket is great. Especially as removing many mac hard drives to put into another machine like the mac pro is not easy.


Is this a tool worthy of Larry’s toolbox?

Larry replies: VERY cool! Two gold stars for this one!

Adam adds:

No worries, it was very easy. Just format the flash drive with journaling on in Utilities > Disk Utility and then when running the installer app, select the option “show all hard disks”


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